This will be the final game of what has easily been the longest season in Colorado football history. Not only in terms of number of games, but in blowout losses, painful moments, and all of the things that make it hard for us fans. But we have a chance to do something in this final game:
We have a chance to finally end the road losing streak.
We have a chance to send the seniors out with a win.
We have a chance to generate a little hatred between our new "rival".
Lets see what needs to happen if we're going to accomplish those three things!
- Colorado Offensive Line vs. Utah Defensive Line
- For anyone who watched us play UCLA, you know we're going to have a tough time this week. Utah has the best defensive line in the Pac 12. They are incredibly good right up the middle, with Star Lotulelei playing up to his name, and a couple of other guys who all can bring it. They get good penetration, they are the best in the conference against the run, and they allow their linebackers to get all over the field to make plays. We are going to be much more efficient in running the ball, and we're going to have to try to get to the edge a lot more than we have. It will be tough for us to get anything going straight ahead, but I think if we can pull Ethan Adkins and involve Evan Harrington, Alex Lewis, Nick Kasa and the biggest bodies we have available, that we can get some yardage on the ground.
- Utah has intercepted 18 passes, and Tyler Hansen has shown that in some games, he's not going to have a handle on coverages. We need a very efficient game from Hansen, one that involves plenty of passes to his checkdowns and only going deep when he and his receiver are on the same page (cough, cough, Toney Clemons @ UCLA)
- Our offense needs his abilities on the field, or else we won't be able to consistently do anything. Toney Clemons has come on and teams are respecting him, but having one dangerous wide receiver does not a balanced team make. We need P-Rich to draw the Utes' full focus away from Rodney Stewart and from T-Clem, so that everyone can have enough space to make something happen. I'm not asking for another 280+ yard performance from Richardson, I'm just asking for a few catches, at least one big one, and for him to cause a change in Utah's defensive focus after halftime.
- Utah is 7-0 when White rushes for 100 yards. On the other hand, the Utes are 0-4 when he is held to less than 100. So we need to keep him under control. They've been feeding him the ball more and more since Jon Hays took over for the injured Jordan Wynn. Last week he tallied 42 carries for 180+ yards. I know our numbers against the run aren't very good, but we have shown the ability to get stops against running teams. If we can come out early and have everyone flying to the ball on defense, and if our boys up front can gum up the works a bit, forcing the Utes to go away from White on the ground would go a long way in giving us a chance in the game.
- One of the most painful aspects of last weeks game, was how often our linebacker and safeties read the play incorrectly early, leading to them playing tentatively, further off the ball, and allowing the play come to them instead of the other way around as the game went on. It meant UCLA was able to run the ball with ease. These guys need to completely forget that game, and come out this week believing in themselves and their ability to make plays. I don't care how they've performed this season, they need to be on the balls of their feet, not back on their heels. Otherwise, this one is over before it starts.
- We need to force turnovers. We need to put the ball in the hands of our offense so they have good field position. This isn't unique to this week, but this is our last game. We need guys like Derrick Webb to continue to knock the ball loose (FF against UCLA), and guys like Greg Henderson, Tyler Sandersfeld and the rest of the back seven to snag an INT or two. Our defense isn't great, but we can mask that with impact plays and momentum changers.
- Make sure Will Oliver gets a chance to put foot to ball early, whether it's a field goal or he's kicking an extra point, we don't want him to go into the offseason still feeling off about his kicking. He's had a rough couple of weeks after having a great season for a true freshman. Last week though, his only kick was an extra point that he pulled wide left, and that's not a good taste to have in your mouth. Lets home little Will can turn it around on Friday.
- We've had so many different combinations of guys back there that it's hard to keep track, but I like the shift we made in the UCLA game. Keep Clemons back there. He's pretty good with the ball in his hands, and we need any extra advantage we can get. I like his chances to give us solid field position each time he chooses to bring the ball out of the endzone.
- This is about to be another very, VERY long offseason. I don't think anyone wants us to end the year on another sour note. Beating Utah, keeping them from possibly playing in the conference championship game would definitely add a positive twist to what has been a very tough year. The Coaches could use the good mojo going into recruiting, the players could use it as a confidence building going into Off-Season work, and the fans could use it so we have a little hope going into 2012. A lot of people need this, so please, Buffs, do what you can to deliver!